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ROME -- Giuseppe Toniolo, a renowned late 19th and early 20th century lay Italian economist and political theorist, was beatified on Sunday in Rome’s Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the final step before a formal declaration of sainthood. Among other claims to fame, Toniolo is now the first economist ever beatified by the Catholic church.

(Toniolo’s sainthood process began in 1951. He was declared “venerable” by Pope Paul VI in 1971, and beatified under Benedict XVI in 2012. That’s a gap of 20 years to cross the first threshold, and 41 years to reach the second. If a similar trajectory continues, we can probably expect canonization in about 80 years, somewhere around 2092.)

During his Regina Coeli remarks on Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI referred to Toniolo as a figure of “great relevance” for today.

For one thing, as Stefano Zamagni, a leading Italian economist who advised Pope Benedict XVI on his 2009 social encyclical Caritas in Veritate, has observed, given the state of the global economy these days, the “dismal science” could undoubtedly use some celestial support.

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